Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act Would Crack Down on Assad’s Supporters and Advance Negotiations

WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today welcomed unanimous approval by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations of legislation to impose new sanctions on Syria’s Assad regime and its supporters, encourage negotiations to end the seven-year old crisis, and prompt investigations into the eventual prosecution of war criminals. The Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, named after the former Syrian military photographer known as “Caesar” who documented Assad’s horrific brutality, would also single out human rights violators, and evaluate the potential of a no-fly or safe-zone over Syria.

“Seven years into the horrific war in Syria, Assad continues to butcher his own citizens. We should have been doing more to stop this slaughter starting several years ago, and history will record it as a failure of American leadership. But we can’t give up on the Syrian people. This bill will crack down anyone who does business with the Assad regime, and will hopefully help advance efforts to reach a political resolution to this crisis,” said Rep. Engel. “I’m grateful to Chairman Corker, Ranking Member Menendez, and my colleagues in the other body for advancing my bill, and I hope the full Senate passes it before they recess.”

The Caesar Syrian Civilian Protection Act of 2017 is named in honor of the former Syrian military photographer “Caesar” who risked his life to show members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Assad’s torture of Syrian civilians. This bill would impose new sanctions on human rights abuses, encourage negotiations, and authorize the State Department to support entities that are collecting and preserving the chain of evidence for eventual prosecution of those committing war crimes or crimes against humanity in Syria. This legislation also leaves flexibility for the Administration so that sanctions can be waived on a case-by-case basis to keep negotiations moving along.

The bill unanimously passed the House of Representatives last year.

In Depth: The Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act

New Sanctions on Syria

The bill would require the President to impose new sanctions on anyone who

  • Does business with or provides financing to the Government of Syria, including Syrian intelligence and security services, or the Central Bank of Syria;
  • Provides aircraft or spare parts for aircraft to Syria’s airlines (including financing);
  • Does business with transportation or telecom sectors controlled by the Syrian government; or
  • Supports Syria’s energy industry.

This bill does not interfere with U.S. obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Encouraging Negotiations

Under the bill, the President could waive sanctions on a case-by-case basis.  Also, sanctions could be suspended if the parties are engaged in meaningful negotiations and the violence against civilians has ceased.  Suspension would be renewable if the suspension is critical to the continuation of negotiations and attacks against civilians have not resumed.

Gathering Evidence for War Crimes Investigations and Prosecutions

The bill would authorize the Secretary of State to support entities that are collecting and preserving evidence for the eventual prosecution of those who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria from March 2011 to the present. 

Name and Shame Human Rights Violators  

The bill would require the President to report to Congress on the names of those who are responsible for or complicit in gross violations of human rights of the Syrian people.

Report on Monitoring and Evaluating Cross-border Assistance to Syria

In light of recent press reports about the abuse of cross-border assistance, this legislation would strengthen oversight of such assistance.

Evaluation of a Potential No-Fly Zone

The bill would require the President to submit a report on the potential effectiveness, risks, and operational requirements of a no-fly zone or a safe zone over part or all of Syria.